By Seth Kinker, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Shoppes of Alber Mill, formerly the Manchester Mill, conducted guided tours during the Run Manchester and Manchester Street Festival Saturday, Aug. 4.
Stephen Alber and Jennifer Wojtowicz, the husband and wife team who purchased the Mill, couldn’t take over the street or riverfront levels until late July. Despite the short time until the open house on Saturday, progress could be seen inside on the tours and has been visible on the outside as they continue to return it to its former luster.
The Mill, which is a little under 9,000 sq. ft. has remained vacant for years. The new owners hope to see it become a travel destination. Three businesses – The Village Hair Forum, Exhale Yoga, and Black Cat Woodworking already reside in the building and Wojtowicz is continuing to look for other businesses to fill the space.
Wojtowicz told The Sun Times that many people that came on the tours didn’t realize that the building is as big as it is, the overgrowth of vines and poison ivy hid the gem that sits right in downtown Manchester.
“People had no idea it was this big, had no idea we owned the dam, and had no idea water runs through the bottom (of the building),” said. “Some of the other earlier tours, it was neat to see a lot of the older residents who shared stories of working in the Mill, when it was a Mill.”
Moving forward, Wojtowicz said that she would love to have the retail spaces filled by next year, she even said she talked to people throughout the day on tours that asked about pricing but knew that all of it would come in due time.
In addition to the inside, which Wojtowicz focuses on, Alber has a plan for the exterior, too.
“My husband has a five-year plan,” said Wojtowicz. “What they’re doing with the River Raisin park, he’s already starting major clearing on the island and the hill in between (the two properties we own). He wants to do a tiered park leading down to the water for the public to access, to use the island, fish down there., etc.”
With only two true months of working on the Mill, the progress has been evident, from the clearing outside, to the more welcoming environment at the Mill itself. Parking has been allowed at the Mill, fishing off the dam has been allowed, and residents have been seen sitting on the Mill porch again.
For Alber and Wojtowicz, two business members invested in the community, it was a feeling of responsibility that factored into their decision in purchasing the Mill.
“It’s just nice to see people are enjoying the Mill again,” said Wojtowicz. “That’s the most rewarding thing.”